The Detroit Pistons haven't won a playoff game since 2008. (They're actually on a 12-game losing streak in the postseason.) And they finished 13th in the Eastern Conference in each of the past two seasons.
So it's been a rough stretch for this proud franchise.
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But Tuesday night was a good night — because the Pistons won the lottery and will now be allowed to select first in the 2021 NBA Draft, which means, barring a surprise, Cade Cunningham will soon move to Detroit. Yes, general manager Troy Weaver has the easiest job in the world right now. I'm not suggesting Cunningham is a can't-miss star like LeBron James was in 2003 or Anthony Davis was in 2012 — but he's the closest thing to a sure-thing available in this draft. The 6-foot-8 guard can play on or off the ball, shot-create, play-make and reliably bury jumpers from the perimeter. There's a lot to like and almost no concerns. So while I'm open to discussions about which player should go second, third, fourth and anywhere else in this draft, there's no doubt in my mind that the first name called on July 29 should be the name of Oklahoma State's first one-and-done star.
The Magic have the No. 5 pick. Will they trade it, or will they use it to draft Jonathan Kuminga? Listen to the latest ep of Eye on College Basketball.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Oklahoma State • Soph • 6'7" / 220 lbs
The Pistons were the fortunate franchise that won the lottery — and now the job of general manager Troy Weaver is easy. The pick should be Cade Cunningham, a point guard with size who can shot-create, play-make, score from all three levels and just generally take over games when the situation requires it, which he showed time and again in his one season in the Big 12.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Jalen Suggs PG
Gonzaga • Soph • 6'5" / 205 lbs
The Rockets have had and lost stars like James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul in recent years — so the franchise is in desperate need of another one. And though I do think there are arguments to be made for Evan Mobley and Jalen Green, the pick should be Jalen Suggs, a great competitor and top-shelf athlete who can be an All-Star level player if his 3-point shot becomes more reliable.
Round 1- Pick 3
USC • Soph • 6'11" / 215 lbs
The Cavaliers have young talent in their backcourt thanks to the presence of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, but they could use a frontcourt star to go with them. That's why the pick here should be Evan Mobley, a one-and-done center who is perfectly suited for the modern NBA given that he's a true rim-protector who is capable of making plays off the bounce or shooting jumpers from the perimeter.
Round 1 - Pick 4
The Raptors were big winners on lottery night when they bounced into the top four and earned the right to select whichever top-tier prospect drops to them. In this mock draft, it's Jalen Green — an elite scorer with explosive athleticism who would flourish playing next to Fred VanVleet in Toronto's backcourt.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Most believe there's a clear top-five in this draft with Jonathan Kuminga being the fifth-best of those five prospects. So assuming he's available here, the Magic would be wise to select him and add a big and versatile athletic wing to a young core of R.J. Hampton and Cole Anthony.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Florida State • Soph • 6'7" / 225 lbs
Oklahoma City's rebuild should have general manager Sam Presti focusing on nothing but adding young prospects with high upsides. At this point in this mock draft, the best player who fits that description is Scottie Barnes, a versatile combo forward who is guaranteed to be Florida State's next one-and-done lottery pick.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Baylor • Soph • 6'1" / 202 lbs
There's a strong belief that the Warriors will try to package this pick and move it for a veteran who is better equipped to help a core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green compete for another title next season. But if they can't get that done, an intriguing option would be Davion Mitchell, a tenacious on-ball defender whose playmaking ability — and shotmaking ability — just helped Baylor win its first national title.
From Chicago Bulls
Round 1 - Pick 8
Moses Moody SG
Arkansas • Soph • 6'5" / 211 lbs
Even if the Magic add Kuminga with the fifth pick, the roster still needs more talent on the wing. Moses Moody is a good-sized guard who was the leading scorer and second-leading rebounder for Arkansas -- and one of the biggest reasons the Razorbacks made the Elite Eight for the first time since 1995.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Keon Johnson SG
Tennessee • Soph • 6'4" / 185 lbs
The Kings finished with the worst defensive rating in the NBA this season, which suggests they could use a prospect who adds something on that end of the court. Keon Johnson was a terrific on-ball defender in his one season at Tennessee and projects as a nice two-way player in the NBA for many years to come.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Tre Mann PG
Florida • Soph • 6'3" / 178 lbs
The Pelicans still need to surround Zion Williamson with shooting -- and adding Tre Mann would accomplish that goal. He shot 40.2% on 4.7 3-point attempts in his final season at Florida, where he also played and guarded multiple positions.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Gordon Hayward has missed 48 regular-season games the past two seasons, which is among the reasons the Hornets need to add depth on the wing. The selection of Josh Giddey would do just that and give Charlotte a perimeter player with size who has already proven himself against professionals in the same league where Charlotte star LaMelo Ball also played before coming to the NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Kentucky • Soph • 6'9" / 205 lbs
The midseason buyout of LaMarcus Aldridge left San Antonio with zero great options in the frontcourt. So using this pick on a big like Isaiah Jackson — whose block percentage of 12.7 ranked eighth nationally (according to KenPom) in his one year at Kentucky — could possibly help the Spurs find their next special rim-wrecking athlete.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Franz Wagner SF
Michigan • Soph • 6'10" / 220 lbs
The Pacers need to add depth on the wing, which makes Franz Wagner an obvious option. His 3-point shot must improve for him to meet expectations, but the fact that he shot 83.3% from the free-throw line this past season at Michigan suggests he's capable of being an above-average perimeter shooter in time.
Round 1 - Pick 14
With or without James Wiseman in Golden State's plans, the Warriors are pretty light in the frontcourt. Adding Alperen Sengun, a throwback center who has been a professional in Turkey since 2018, would qualify as a sensible move and give Steve Kerr someone who is already very comfortable catching the ball at the elbow and using a face-up game to score and draw fouls.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Connecticut • Soph • 6'4" / 190 lbs
Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal combined this season to give Washington one of the NBA's best starting backcourts, but there's very little quality or creativity on the bench. James Bouknight could provide the Wizards with an extra guard who was offensively overwhelming for defenses in spurts during his final season at UConn.
From Boston Celtics
Round 1 - Pick 16
Kai Jones PF
Texas • Soph • 6'11" / 221 lbs
Oklahoma City has so many picks — in this draft and future drafts — that it can afford to take a big swing on a prospect like Kai Jones. It's a bet on his upside, sure, but the two-year product from Texas has a chance to be a stretch-big at the next level considering he made 13 of the 34 3-pointers he attempted this past season.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Chris Duarte SG
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 190 lbs
The Grizzlies ranked 20th in 3-point field goal percentage this season and thus need to add shooting, which is something Chris Duarte could provide. The former National Junior College Player of the Year made better than 42% of the 5.5 3-pointers he attempted per contest this past season at Oregon, and there's little doubt he has a game that'll translate to the NBA.
From Miami Heat
Round 1 - Pick 18
Stanford • Soph • 6'9" / 185 lbs
The Thunder are in a total rebuild and should be focused on trying to add prospects who have a chance to be special. Ziaire Williams fits that description given that he's a one-and-done wing with athleticism who was a consensus top-10 prospect coming out of high school.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Duke • Soph • 6'8" / 219 lbs
It's unclear if the Knicks will want to keep both of their first-round picks given the depth currently on the roster, but, if they do, adding a prospect like Jalen Johnson could be a great long-term play. He's a former five-star prospect who shot above 44% from 3-point range over a span of 13 games before quitting Duke's team midseason.
Round 1 - Pick 20
LSU • Soph • 6'3" / 210 lbs
Cameron Thomas is a big-time scorer who led the SEC in points per game in his one season at LSU. The efficiency numbers weren't great, but that's largely because he was responsible for creating an unusually high percentage of the Tigers' offense, which obviously wouldn't be the case in Atlanta because of the presence of Trae Young.
From Dallas Mavericks
Round 1 - Pick 21
Greg Brown PF
Texas • Fr • 6'7" / 206 lbs
Greg Brown is such a bouncy athlete that he's worthy of first-round looks based on potential alone. If his 3-point shot continues to improve to the point where he's a legitimate big who can stretch the floor, he could solve some long-term issues for the Knicks.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Gonzaga • Soph • 6'6" / 224 lbs
The Lakers are always looking to add shooting around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Corey Kispert, who made 44.0% of the 6.5 3-pointers he attempted per game this past season at Gonzaga, is arguably the best shooter in this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Auburn • Fr • 6'1" / 180 lbs
Sharife Cooper is a little on the small side, which will likely be the thing that prevents him from being seriously considered for the top 10. But he's such a gifted passer and playmaker that he would be a reasonable option here for a Houston franchise in a multiyear rebuild.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 24
Villanova • Soph • 6'8" / 242 lbs
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was the leading scorer and rebounder for a Villanova team that won the Big East by multiple games. He's not the best athlete, but his understanding of how to play, and his ability to be a pick-and-pop 4, could allow him to become a core piece for the Rockets, who are still probably years away from competing for a postseason spot.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Ayo Dosunmu SG
Illinois • Soph • 6'5" / 200 lbs
Ayo Dosunmu improved enough as a shooter in his third season at Illinois to lock up a spot in the first round. The regularity with which he took over games in the Big Ten suggests he can be a big-scoring guard who could provide depth in the Clippers' backcourt and help them win immediately.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Tennessee • Soph • 6'4" / 202 lbs
Jaden Springer made above 43% of his 3-point attempts in his one season of college, which is an encouraging stat even if it was on limited attempts. Among the youngest players in this draft, he could develop into an important piece that upgrades Denver's backcourt.
Round 1 - Pick 27
The Nets are obviously incredible offensively (when completely healthy) — but they still need to improve defensively, which is why selecting Usman Garuba would make some sense. He's a versatile high-level defender who could help as a rookie and perhaps eventually develop into one of the best defensive bigs in the world.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Virginia • Soph • 6'8" / 206 lbs
Trey Murphy had no problem adjusting to the ACC after spending his first two years of college at Rice. He's proven over the span of three seasons to be a consistent high-level shooter, one who could be a floor-spacer for a Philadelphia franchise that still needs more 3-point threats.
Round 1 - Pick 29
West Virginia • Soph • 6'1" / 195 lbs
If the Suns decide to add some backcourt depth, Miles McBride would be a reasonable option. He's a guard who gets after it defensively and shoots it reliably — evidence being the fact that he shot 41.4% from 3-point range this past season, and 81.3% from the free-throw line while leading West Virginia to a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Arizona State • Soph • 6'4" / 215 lbs
The Jazz are at a point with their roster where they can afford to take a gamble on an intriguing prospect like Josh Christopher. He's a guard with size who, in a limited number of games, showed a real ability to shot-create and score in ways that translate to the NBA.